This editorial ran in the April 8, 2019 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The evidence keeps piling up that Illinois must toughen its law on vaccine exemptions.
In dozens of schools in the Chicago area and in hundreds across the state, vaccination rates are below what experts recommend to prevent the spread of measles, according to a new analysis by WBEZ.
According to experts, at least 98 percent of students in a school should be vaccinated for their own protection — and to provide group protection for children who, for legitimate medical reasons, can't be vaccinated for the highly contagious disease.
But WBEZ found that at 67 Chicago-area schools, and 514 schools across Illinois, vaccination rates topped out at 95 percent or lower. At four Chicago schools, fewer than 50 percent of children had proof of vaccination.
None of this should be surprising. As we wrote last month, the number of religious exemptions from childhood vaccines has spiked alarmingly in Illinois despite a 2015 law that was supposed to make it tougher to get such an exemption.
Meanwhile, in late March, the Cook County Department of Public Health released a scary timeline showing how an infected person exposed thousands of others to the measles over seven days.
It's playing with fire to let students attend school without the required vaccines. Besides being highly contagious, measles can have serious complications.
Scientists have repeatedly proven that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is safe, despite conspiracy theories and myths to the contrary.
Yet those baseless myths are fueling an alarming rise in measles cases nationwide. When we first wrote about the dangers of anti-vaccine myths, 206 measles cases had been reported in the U.S. Five were reported in Illinois.
Since then, the national number has more than doubled, to 465, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two more cases have been reported in Illinois.
Time to heed the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics: Eliminate all non-medical childhood vaccine exemptions.
Do it for our kids' health.